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Let's think of everything happening in our world today. A civil war tearing apart Syria, the Supreme Court deciding who has the right to no-strings-attached love, Russia becoming more authoritarian...there's quite a bit to go down in the history books. However, picture yourself in fifty years. If someone asks you what you remember about the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage, will it be the court proceedings of each individual day that you remember? Or will it be how your grandmother almost threw a plastic spoon at your brother in a heated debate concerning the topic?
I think the latter.
In Karen Thomson Walker's The Age of Miracles, the turning of Earth on its axis slows day to day, causing mammoth environmental changes. At first thought, one would probably reason that our main character, twelve-year-old Julia, records a significant amount about how days progressively get longer and the effects on wildlife and such (birds dying, ecosystems breaking down, the like). But surprisingly, a much larger deal of the book has to do with ways in which, parallel to Earth's progressive change, Julia's life progressively changes. When her best friend moves away to a Mormon retreat dedicated to waiting out the apocalypse, said friend promptly forgets Julia. When Julia's mother becomes anal about collecting foodstuffs, her father begins an affair with the local hippie. Events such as these compose a much larger ratio of the book than information concerning the scientific portion of this "age." To a historian, such a trend is a complete and utter waste of time. To the average human being, it is the art of living.
Now, it can definitely be said that many more people are aware of the oncoming Supreme Court decision mentioned above than the Syrian Civil War or Russian Authoritarianism. Why? Well, what subject is most bound to come up at the family dinner table? What phenomenon is most likely to cause dissent in the American family? What phenomenon is most likely to affect American individuals?
The Supreme Court decision, obviously.
But the unfortunate fact is that the Syrian Civil War and Russian Authoritarianism are just as if not more important than the Supreme Court's impending decision. Syrian families have been forced to live in caves for the simple protection of their lives (more info). Russian activists are being unjustly persecuted under Putin's regime (more info). However, these topics aren't easily grasped by the American public because they don't apply very much to them--but does that mean we shouldn't care?
Absolutely not. America has a role in the world, and that role demands that we at least keep ourselves aware of international human rights violations. Even a simple statement of "We are here for you and wish you the best" is better than the ambivalent response we have now. Moreover, those of us that who are informed have a responsibility to the world, and that responsibility is to make these imperative phenomena applicable to our fellow Americans. Bring it up at the dinner table. Keep it in the awareness of our peers. Isn't penalization of Russian Activists somewhat similar to the Patriot Act? And if we were in the same situation as those Syrian families, wouldn't we find a cave to shelter our families in as well? We are all human--it's just haphazard groupings of letters called nationalities that differentiate us.
And most importantly, if we don't address these issues now, we will be forced to do so when they become too applicable for comfort. Remember, the world is a dreadfully small place.